Maryland Assault Laws
In Maryland, assault is defined as an attempt to touch someone else without their consent. Usually, the touching in question is an act of violence, such as a punch or threatening someone with a weapon.
One of the most serious forms of assault in Maryland is known as first-degree assault. First-degree assault occurs when someone causes serious physical injury to another person. Under Maryland criminal law, serious physical injury means that the victim could have died or was permanently disfigured or disabled due to the altercation.
First-degree assault is a very serious crime, and it comes with a very serious penalty. Specifically, if you are convicted of first-degree assault, a judge may sentence you to a maximum of 25 years in prison.
A lesser assault charge is known as second-degree assault. In Maryland, second-degree assault is defined as causing someone physical injury. This excludes minor injuries.
Although less serious than first-degree assault, second-degree assault still comes with a fairly stiff penalty. In fact, if convicted, you can face up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
There are other subcategories of assault that each have their own punishments. For example, if you assault an officer of the law, you will automatically face a maximum of 10 years in prison. If you poison someone by contaminating their food or water, that counts as assault as well and comes with a maximum 20-year prison sentence.
Maryland Assault Defenses: Self Defense
Many assault cases arise from fights, and often the person who started the fight is the one charged with assault. In these cases, the defense of “self defense” is a commonly relied upon defense in Maryland.
Self-defense is when you claim to have used physical force (possibly even causing physical injury) because you were protecting yourself or someone else from physical harm. For this defense to be effective, however, you must show that the amount of force you used to protect yourself was reasonable.
You and your attorney will have to use witness testimony and any other evidence available to establish that you were indeed protecting yourself and that you did not start the fight. You will also need to show that the force you used against your would-be attacker was reasonable or else the jury may still find you guilty of some form of assault.
Maryland Assault Defenses: Lack of Evidence
Juries receive specific instructions regarding what must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict someone of assault. This means that if there is not enough evidence to establish the criteria to convict you of an assault charge, you might be found not guilty.
To show there is a lack of evidence, your attorney will have to question the prosecutions witnesses and any evidence submitted to the court. The attorney can also call his or her sides own witnesses to try to establish doubt in the minds of the jurors.
Maryland Assault Defenses: Plea Bargains
Although a plea won’t necessarily keep you out of jail, it may reduce the amount of time you have to spend in prison.
A plea bargain is when you and your attorney strike a deal with the prosecution. As part of this deal, you have to plead guilty to lesser charges, which means that you will be getting a reduced sentence and both parties may avoid trial.
For example, if you are charged with first-degree assault, your attorney may be able to talk this crime down to a second-degree assault charge, especially if there is insufficient evidence to convict you of a first-degree charge. In a recent case, Sharon T. Diamant was able to lower an attempted murder charge to a first-degree assault charge, which translated into far less jail time for the defendant.